Today marks the 160th anniversary of the death of Adoniram Judson, America’s first foreign missionary. For 38 years—through imprisonment, torture, illness, deep depression, isolation from family and friends, and the loss of two wives and numerous children—he suffered to bring the gospel to the unreached peoples of Burma.
At age 61 he fell ill for the last time. In his biographical message on Judson, John Piper recounts those final days:
The only hope was to send the desperately ill Judson on a voyage. On April 3, 1850 they carried Adoniram onto the Aristide Marie bound for the Isle of France with one friend, Thomas Ranney, to care for him. In his misery he would be roused from time to time by terrible pain ending in vomiting. One of his last sentences was: “How few there are who . . . who die so hard!”
At 15 minutes after 4 on Friday afternoon April 12, 1850 Adoniram Judson died at sea, away from all his family and Burmese Church. That evening the ship hove to.
“The crew assembled quietly. The larboard port was opened. There were no prayers. . . . The captain gave the order. The coffin slid through the port into the night” (To the Golden Shore, p. 505).
He died in obscurity, but to this day the fruit of Judson’s life and death proves the promise Jesus gave in John 12:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” As Piper observes,
Today Patrick Johnstone estimates the Myanmar (Burma’s new name) Baptist Convention to be 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members and 1,900,000 affiliates—the fruit of [Judson’s] dead seed.
I pray we too would die to self & be used mightily by God for the glory of Christ!